Agile Marketing

Our development team at Leet Digital often uses an agile framework. It’s great for managing projects and workflows in an environment where there’s a general plan but a lot of unknowns.

In fact, we’ve found this approach so effective that we decided to adapt it and apply it to our marketing strategies. We’re not the only business doing this – many businesses are benefiting from what has come to be known as “agile marketing”.

Agile marketing takes its inspiration from agile software development. Specifically, this approach values:

  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Rapid iterations over “big bang” campaigns
  • Testing and data over opinions and conventions.
  • Many small experiments over a few large bets
  • Individuals and interactions over one-size-fits-all
  • Collaboration over silos and hierarchy

According to agilemarketing.net, the goals of agile marketing is to “improve the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability to change of the marketing function”.

This article follows on the heels of a recent presentation we delivered on agile marketing at the Lean Startup Sydney Meetup Group. Our methods were so well-received that we decided to share Leet Digital’s approach more broadly in this series of articles.

Like all frameworks, everybody has their own take on how best to use agile. Our framework looks like this:

Deep-dive and analysis

Our framework begins with a deep-dive analysis to understand the status of our client’s operations and overall effectiveness. The process involves analysing their customers/target market(s), marketing strategies and materials, and their goals.
To ensure we’re covering all our bases, we use a variety of tools throughout this phase. Some of our “go to” ones are:

You may already be familiar with some – perhaps all – of these tools. Over time, we’ve found that simply combining these tools helps us answer a lot of the who, what, where, when, why, and how essential in developing a marketing plan and strategy.

The 1-page strategy

Following our deep-dive analysis, we have the information we need to start forming a strategy. At Leet Digital, we’ve refined our approach to the point where we condense all the key elements of a strategy into a single page that we refer to as our “1-page strategy”.

The 1-page strategy covers long-term goals and activities with a focus on outcomes over a 3-month period. We’ve found this window of time to be the “sweet spot” to keep things organised and actionable without being so long-term that the plan becomes irrelevant. It is designed for everybody in the organisation and built to facilitate focus on a day-to-day basis.
Why did we choose this approach? Because a focused plan is a simple plan, not one that overloads the viewer with information.

We learned this the hard way. In the past, we produced comprehensive strategy documents. But guess what happened to these? They got dumped in the bottom drawer of people’s desks (or somewhere in the Cloud). Detailed strategic plans are not useful if they aren’t referenced to help track progress against what we planned to do.

Here’s what a 1-page strategy looks like:

Now, it may seem naïve to think that you can fit the entire strategy for your marketing activities on a single page of paper. While it looks simple, it takes a lot of deliberation and back and forth with your team to refine a strategy so that it fits within a single page.

Notice how we ticked off some answers to who, when, where, what, and how. One key element that is missing is the why. To be clear, we haven’t ignored it in our 1-page strategy. Rather, because why can be quite broad, we opted to tease it out in an appendix. In that space, we can capture the why as well as other relevant information to implement the strategy, e.g., our business model canvas. Because these aspects are essential in the development of the strategy, but don’t necessarily impact the day-to-day activities, it makes sense to place them in an appendix.

If you’d like more information about how to use the 1-page strategy or want to download our template, you can do so by clicking here.

Planning and the Kanban board

Once your 1-page strategy comes together, it’s time to turn all that planning into actionable tasks that can be delegated.

At Leet Digital, we do this by breaking down specific tasks that need to be completed in the form of digital cards (I’ll say more about this below). By doing this, we can work towards our deliverables and achieve our milestones according to our 1-page strategy.

While there are plenty of project management tools out there, the Kanban board works very nicely for projects that require agile approaches. A Kanban board is a project and workflow visualisation tool that enables you to optimise individual and collaborative projects. For simpler projects, it can look like this:

The system’s highly visual and collaborative structure helps teams communicate about what needs to be done and when.

The key thing to note is that each column is labelled according to a step in the team’s process (“to do”, “doing”, and “done”). Kanban cards are then created under the columns relating to the status of the work, and can then be moved into the next column as your team progresses. When customised to your team’s methods, activities, and collaborative style, the board can communicate multiple details at a glance.

For marketing, we’ve found the following workflow to be most effective:

New > SMART goals > Objectives, outcomes, and milestones > Backlog (> 30 days) > Current month (< 30 days) > Current sprint > Currently doing > QA > Stakeholder approval > Done

When building a task backlog, we list at least a month’s worth of cards to be completed against the 1-page strategy. Where it’s common for tasks to evolve throughout a sprint, the cards don’t have to be 100% binding or contain every detail. After all, you can always add more information in the implementation phase.

That said, I recommend placing absolutely everything you can think of into the backlog where it can be cleaned up with each new sprint plan. (Note, a sprint is a set period of time to complete specific tasks and have them ready for review).

If you’d like to learn more about how we use our Kanban board at Leet Digital, check out this article.

Sprint plan

Once we’ve filled the Kanban board with cards, we can start planning which ones we’ll do in the next sprint. Typically, the duration of a sprint is determined by the team lead. Once the team reaches consensus for how many days a sprint should last, all future sprints should take a similar window of time. At Leet, we like to do weekly sprints.

Each sprint begins with a planning meeting. During the meeting, the team lead (usually a project manager) and the marketing team review the cards in the Kanban backlog and agree on the work that will be completed during the sprint. There is an art and a science involved in determining how much work can be done and what to prioritise. All of the relevant backlogged cards then get dragged out and dropped into the ‘doing’ (current sprint) lane.

Sprint!

Now it’s time to do the actual work. After a sprint begins, the team lead steps back and lets the team do their work. During the sprint, the team holds daily stand-up meetings (sometimes called scrums) to discuss progress and brainstorm solutions to any challenges that arise.

At Leet, our format for stand-ups is straightforward:

1. What did I do yesterday?

2. What will I do today?

3. What blocks my progress?

Answering these three fundamental questions helps the team get at the heart of what they need to know. When each team member voices this information, you will all have a good idea of the status of your agile marketing sprint and what changes, if any, you need to make.

On our team, the lead is accountable for following up with people on tasks and keeping the wheels turning in the right direction.

Handling unplanned and delayed tasks

Sh*t happens and life is unpredictable. So when an unexpected task comes up, or if tasks run long to the point where they impact the overall plan, we need to:

  • Identify its urgency against the overall sprint 
  • Based off the perceived urgency, move it to the backlog or push it into the current sprint
  • Evaluate sprint success probability (i.e., does anything need to be removed?) 
  • Advise all stakeholders of the revised plan
  • Get everyone’s buy-in
  • Resume the sprint based on the new plan

This is one of the most powerful benefits of agile. It allows us to be responsive without tearing our hair out.

Sprint Retrospective

At the end of each sprint, we complete a retrospective – where the team and stakeholders come together to discuss processes and outcomes. This phase is essential to continuous improvement and presents an opportunity for all involved to collaborate on the next steps that could be taken to optimize outcomes.

At Leet Digital, we like to keep these meetings to a maximum of 1-hour and use the following template:

This helps us cover key retrospective points and sets us up for what to focus on in the next sprint. In an effort to improve and grow together, we also use this as an opportunity to identify any training or coaching requirements for individuals.

We then repeat the sprint process by completing the next sprint plan.

I invite you to learn more about how we use our sprint retrospective template at Leet Digital or to download a copy here.

Strategy Review and Restart

Each quarter we repeat the entire agile marketing framework. This gives us the opportunity to step back and look at everything we’ve learned and achieved more broadly. It also enables us to make large-scale course-corrections that may need to happen at a higher level against our business objectives.

 

Phew, that was a lot to take in. It’ll no doubt be challenging when you first try to implement this framework. However, if you take it step-by-step and evolve the tool to work for you, I’m sure you’ll achieve the same benefits as we have in implementing Agile Marketing. If you have any questions on implementing this tool, don’t be afraid to comment below or email us here.

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by Myron Festejo

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August 28, 2019

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